CRA-E Releases Report on Best Practices for Scaling Undergraduate CS Research Opportunities

Undergraduate enrollments in CS have grown considerably and continue to grow.  Yet opportunities for undergraduates to engage in CS research have not grown proportionally.  Engaging undergraduates in research has tremendous benefits for students, and is critical to the health of the North American CS PhD pipeline.

The CRA’s Education committee has released a new report documenting best practices and concrete suggestions for departments wishing to expand undergraduate research opportunities in CS (without overwhelming their faculty!).  The report is based on a broad examination of existing structured research programs at universities across North America. It compiles the main challenges departments face in implementing undergraduate research programs, and provides best practices for addressing these challenges.  A brief sample of some of these challenges and best practices are given below:

Challenge: It is time consuming to mentor undergraduate students.
Associated Best Practice: Expand mentoring structures to help spread the mentoring load.  The report gives advice on mentoring structures.

Challenge: Achieving Equity and Diversity
Associated Best Practice: Lower the Barrier to Entry.  The report describes broad-entry strategies that are more inclusive to all students, regardless of their prior experience or comfort approaching individual faculty members.

Challenge: Tensions with Tenure and Promotion
Associated Best Practice: Increase Benefits to Faculty.  The report describes several ways benefits to faculty can be made more explicit.

The complete report gives more information about each suggestion above, as well as many more best practices.  We hope this report will help academic leaders and faculty to build department-wide structures that will allow these departments to provide high quality undergraduate research opportunities to more, and more diverse, students in a way that is mutually beneficial for the students and the faculty.

Report Authors
Christine Alvarado, University of California, San Diego
Michael Hilton, Carnegie Mellon University
Amy J. Ko, University of Washington, Seattle
Lori Pollock, University of Delaware
Kelly Shaw, Williams College
Neil Spring, University of Maryland